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  • Jess Harrell

Exploring Iconic Chairs: The History Behind the Thonet Bentwood Chair

Many timeless icons in the design world have transcended generations and trends. They're easily recognizable pieces, but how much do we actually know about them? Whether it's a chair, table, or lamp, each creation has a story behind it. In this blog post series, I'm diving into the world of iconic chairs, starting with the Thonet No. 14- a chair that has no doubt left a huge mark on the design industry.

Jess Harrell, Interior Designer Northern Virginia-Exploring iconic chairs
Source: The Design Museum

Perfecting the Craft

When it comes to bentwood furniture, Michael Thonet is THE king, and in 1855, he introduced the world to the Thonet No. 14 chair, redefining furniture design. While he wasn't the inventor of bentwood furniture, Thonet 100% perfected the craft of steaming and bending wood. He created intricate and graceful shapes that people previously thought impossible. And his innovative techniques paved the way for the Thonet No. 14 chair and countless other bentwood designs that followed.

Affordable AF

Way back in 1855, you could get your hands on one of these beauties for just 75 cents. That's the equivalent of $30 today!!! You can't even get a chair at Ikea for that price. This affordable price made the chair accessible to many, regardless of their social and economic status.

Timeless Appeal Makes an Iconic Chair

The chair's characteristic bentwood frame and sexy curves have truly stood the test of time. It's minimalist yet elegant, making it a versatile piece that works with pretty much every design style. There are many variations and copies of this icon, but the No. 14 is hands down the quintessential representation of a bentwood chair. Over the years, the No. 14 chair also found its home in cafes, restaurants, and public spaces worldwide. And many furniture designers have been inspired by Thonet's approach to furniture design.

It's pretty amazing how the No. 14 chair has stayed popular for as long as it has. It's all thanks to Michael Thonet mastering the art of bentwood furniture and making pieces that are both affordable and gorgeous. Just looking at this chair makes you realize how good design can be totally mesmerizing. Scroll below for beautiful interiors featuring the No. 14 and other iterations of the bentwood design.


1. Thonet. "Thonet - A History of Furniture." Thonet. []

2. Yablonsky, Linda. "The Stool That Will Never Go Out of Style." The New York Times, 22 November 2018. []


Hi there!

I'm Jess Harrell, interior designer and founder of The Styled Domicile. I've got a thing for eating ice-cream straight out of the pint (Netflix and Chill or The Tonight Dough, please), embarrassing my kids (trust me, they love it), and making homes and the people that live in them happier. I'm all about celebrating what makes you different and throwing ordinary out the window.

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